United And Real: A Brief History
Manchester United take on Real Madrid for the 11th time in senior competition tonight; ahead of the European Super Cup clash, we run through some facts and figures.
All ten previous meetings between the clubs have been in the European Cup or Champions League, giving an indication of the prestige of the fixture; tonight’s game, while slightly less important than the previous games, is nonetheless the result of both clubs winning the major European trophies last season.
Of the ten previous games, Real Madrid have won four and United just two; the first, the nervy 1-0 win in the 1968 semi-final first leg and the second, the 4-3 win in 2003 which ultimately meant little for Sir Alex Ferguson’s team.
Of course, it doesn’t stop there – the clubs have faced each other numerous times in friendly games, with the most significant of those taking place in the late 50s after the Munich disaster. Real Madrid and United were Europe’s best two teams and United looked set to be the side who would topple the great Madrid side and end their European dominance before disaster struck. The relationship between the clubs was competitive but healthy and borne out of tremendous respect. After United’s 1958 visit, Duncan Edwards was given a gold watch by the Madrid staff, a gift he cherished.
After the disaster Madrid offered to help out by playing United in a series of exhibition games where they lowered their fee in order for United to generate some much needed revenue from gate receipts. The first of these games took place on 1st October, 1959. United’s decimated team were no match for the superstars of Real Madrid, who won 6-1 at Old Trafford in front of 63,500, but for the home players, it was an eye-opening benchmark of where they needed to return to. “It seems odd to lose 6-1 and yet enjoy a match so much!” Dennis Viollet quipped afterwards.
The following month, United conceded six again as the teams met in the Bernabeu; however, the clash on 11th November was much tighter, finishing 6-5; in the 61st minute, they were leading 4-3 before a quick fire hat-trick from Bueno turned it around.
Madrid again won at Old Trafford the following October but it was another tight affair which finished 3-2; both teams were given a standing ovation as they left the pitch.
When the teams next played, on 13th December 1961, United won that friendly game 3-1 to leave the 43,000 home fans dreaming that the glory days were returning. It was a feeling strengthened by United’s 2-0 win in the Bernabeu in front of 80,000 fans – a game taken so seriously by the hosts that their home fans were seen to be leaving early, and shaking their fists at the pitch in anger at the players.
The teams have played in many friendly games since – just two weeks ago, they played out a 1-1 draw in America – and while there is something of a frosty relationship between the clubs these days, it is nonetheless built on a solid and respectful friendship from the 1950s. Hopefully tonight, United can go someway to levelling up the competitive record between the clubs.